The Art of Letting Go

 

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

Hermann Hesse

So. I have an opportunity to be promoted to another store manager position with my pay the bills company. I’ve decided to let it go.

It’s hard for me to do that. Even writing that I won’t pursue the position was hard. I’m an Achiever, after all, and I need to continue challenging myself, to feel that sense of accomplishment from conquering goals, to feel any sort of satisfaction.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs claims that the summit of motivation theory is self-actualization. It’s the idea of reaching one’s full potential as an individual. This need is never fully satisfied, because there’s always more opportunities to grow. I know I should feel lucky that my only issue in life (at this moment) is my need to grow into my full potential as a human being, answering questions about Life, The Universe, and Everything. Which made me realize: what would have been my reason for going after this other position?

I had to really stop myself and reflect on my true goals. My life goals. And I realized that to pursue this more challenging endeavor would give me the “excuse” of not pouring myself wholeheartedly into novel writing. I had to shift my sense of Achievement from my pay the bills job to my novel.

I know that I can succeed in any position in my company. I know that now. And, to go after a more challenging role would engage and entertain me for a while. But, soon, I’ll be feeling the same way as I feel now: bored, with a side of unfulfilled.

Honestly, I can say that, because I’m bored in my current one. I’m consistently a top performing store manager, and I’m trending to be the #1 store manager in my district again. This is my third full year as a store manager, and my third year as #1. And, up until this year, I had a second part time job and as of last year, a novel to write on top of that. Believe me when I say, I seek out challenging assignments.

This next few months, my challenging assignment is steeling myself against the temptation of “new and different” and allow myself to be bored in a field that fulfills my physiological, safety, social, and esteem needs; because my true area of growth, where I can feel like I’m growing into my full potential, is writing and story-telling. That’s where I need to spend the bulk of my time. That’s the challenge that I need to pursue as doggedly as I would for my pay the bills job. The satisfaction would last longer, I’m sure.

Don’t think too hard
If you think it hurts that bad
Don’t talk about it,
Don’t let it get you down
It’s only one part
Of the story
Just let it go,
Don’t let it bring you down
Now

Sing, the last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less

Straighten up your tie,
Take the microphone
Forget about it,
Don’t let it get you down
Now is not the time
And you are not alone,
Shut up about it
No one can bring you down,
Now

Sing, the last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less

I’ll be okay
I’ll be okay
If you…

Sing, the last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less
The last thing on your mind
The last word on your breath
I’ll be the one to keep you
I’ll keep you at your best
The last thing on your mind
‘Cause I don’t need your mess
I’ll be the one to keep you
One disaster less

Simplify. Focus. Young Adult Genre

Readers Read Stories

Confession: I don’t understand when I hear people say, “I don’t read that genre.”

I’ve been ridiculously addicted to reading basically my whole entire life.  (Hello, this blog used to be “Reading Makes Me Happy”, and my dusty Blogspot blog still claims the domain name: “readingmakesmehappy .blogspot. com”.)  I was THAT girl. You know, the girl whose parents checked on to see that she was sleeping, and, after they left, she would promptly break out the flashlight and read throughout the night, Never Ending Story style.  Seriously.  Addicted.  Still am.

So, I’ve basically confided some time ago, that I have read and loved stories in every genre.  EVERY genre.  Why?  Because I thoroughly enjoy stories.  Anyone’s stories.  Heck, I will hire anyone who has great stories during an interview.  Why?  Because the person who can entertain me during an interview can entertain future strangers when selling products.  Just sayin’.

Plainly speaking, readers (at least THIS reader) read stories, not genres.  And, a good story is a good story, no matter the genre (end of story).  I do understand that people have a need to label and categorize things into neat, marketable units.  Hence, genres.  But, just because books are organized in a certain way for selling and navigational purposes, doesn’t mean that consumers need to “read” that way.

Genre, What is it Good For?

I appreciate branding for what it is, but the one drawback to it is a misperception of what that brand could be. Same can be said with genres.

Take the Young Adult genre nowadays: whether paranormal, sci fi, or contemporary, 90% of it revolves around high school: classes, relationship dramas, etc.  Because of that, I never thought to seriously write a YA story, because I quite frankly didn’t want to stay in high school when I was there, and so why relive that as an adult?  My high school wasn’t hard, but I always felt like it was an annoying four years holding me back from my real life (I much preferred college.  If I could stay there forever…)

I was more of an observer of high school rather than a true participator.  Sure, I played the game, and was president or officer of at least three different clubs (depending on the year), active in electives, etc, but that’s all it was to me.  A game.  That I played very well.  However, I knew it was just a phase and not Real Life, and so I never really invested much in it.  (Sorry, but I got A’s without even trying.)

I don’t want to say that I was “serious” but I definitely wasn’t the typical 16 year-old I currently see on TV, chasing boys and defying my parents.  In my household, my siblings and I often seamlessly wove theology, art history, and the latest Star Trek episode into an argument about who should get the last bit of sausage and eggs.  That’s just how we rolled. THAT to me was Real Life.  The way I viewed my high school experience then is pretty much how I view my paythebills job now: a great diversion, but just a stepping stone to get me to the next phase of my Life.

Another misperception that I had about YA Lit stemmed from the fact that the characters tend to be right around 16.  From there, I assumed the stories must be flighty and without substance.  (Take a look at what the CW has been playing for the last 5 years, and tell me that I was off base to come to that conclusion.)  But, then I thought to myself, “Dude, I wasn’t flighty and irresponsible at 16.”  That thought led to a series of facepalm moments where I realized that I didn’t have to write about teenagers as portrayed by the CW.   I can write for the young adults that never quite fit in with the other young adults (which, evidently, is EVERY young adult’s story, no matter who you are).

I want to write for the one who unapologetically loves hammy sci-fi, kung fu, action movies;  who is addicted to comic books and anime; who secretly reads torrid romance novels, and cries at sad movies; who wears a three-piece business suit for a class presentation one day, and a ballerina tutu with combat boots and Sailor Moon hair the next.

Basically, I want to write for my 16-year-old self.

And, thinking about my 16 year-old self brought me to the real principle of YA Lit.  It’s not the high school or the agonizing over boys.  Not quite about fitting in or pleasing the parents.  It’s about identity.  The rest of it (high school settings and boy drama)  are just (replaceable) back drops and props in the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery.

Young Adult? Really?

The value of YA Lit, then, that I admire and am attracted to, and one that I always tried to write in my non-YA stories that never fit, is the idea of self-discovery with a sense of wonder.

I have felt that sense of wonder at 16.  I still feel it at 30.  I want to continue believing in and embracing that sense of wonder.

And, that is why, in the (hopefully near) future, I will be proud to bear the title, “Young Adult Author.”

Yes.  Young Adult.  Really.

Simplify. Focus. The Author I Want To Be

Brand Image

“Real is just a matter of perception.” Peter Bishop, Fringe

It’s not a big secret that I work in retail as a Store Manager.  Part of my role/responsibility is to ensure that my team upholds The Brand’s image.  Consistency is important for customer loyalty and overall satisfaction, not only for The Brand (as a company of over 1700 stores across the country), but also for My Specific Store.  You see, not only do I want my customers to receive the level of service that they expect from The Brand, I want them to have the “Fun Personalized Service” that I’m cultivating in my store team to deliver.  Fun Personalized Service is what I want my customers to expect whenever they come to My Store.

Just as I want my customers to expect a Fun Personalized Service experience when they enter my store, I want future readers of my books to expect a certain kind of story from me as an author.

The Author I Want to Be

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. “
C. S. Lewis

I said last week that the Story I Want to Write was tied to the Author that I Want to Be; the brand image of the Writer, so to speak.  And, I decided that the Author I want to be needed to be Fun.  Not the “life is always happy and fluffy, cue the smiling flowers and woodland creatures” Fun, but more lighthearted, hopeful, and dare I say, entertaining fun.  The type of fun that I deliver in my store.  The type of fun that allows my customers to relax and enjoy themselves and forget their busyness for a moment.

I want to write the story that readers will seek out to remember that life is beautiful, and yes, you are invited to rest here for a time, and after doing so, you will feel refreshed and ready to face more of life.  In Dean Koontz’s novels, he would refer to this kind of respite as “moments of grace” (and if you’ve read what he puts his characters through, you would understand the beauty of those moments).  I would like to be able to say that my books can be your Moments of Grace in the midst of storms.  High expectations for me to deliver, but things worth pursuing are rarely easy to accomplish.  Finding Fun in the Challenge is my outlook on this journey.

Stop Thinking About Problems

“You can’t solve a problem at the same level of thinking that created it.” Einstein

“You can either make excuses or get results, but you can’t do both.” Tom Venuto

So, what prompted all this self-analysis?  Well, it all started with Tom Venuto’s The Body Fat Solution, which introduced  neuro linguistic programming in basic terms as a way to overcome mental roadblocks to achieving successful body recomposition.

I’m not an expert at all the nitty-gritty, but I will just say that I have been able to face down more challenges this year alone based on the principle that the words I use reflect a subconscious perception of my problem, creating limiting beliefs.  Months ago, I brainstormed many of my limiting beliefs that were blocking me from truly embracing the title of “Writer” and “Author.”  One of those beliefs was that I needed to be Serious and Deep to have any sort of chance to be a Published Author.  (I won’t analyze why I thought this, I just know that it was there, and I had to create solutions around that obstacle.)

You can imagine how (un)productive I was in my writing, believing that being an Author came with the admission price of being Serious, and knowing that deep down,  I’m not Serious at all (of course, I can be serious; don’t worry I act with appropriate decorum at weddings and funerals).  Of course, I’ve since set myself up to enable me to work through those limiting beliefs (though the feelings of inadequacy will likely stay with me for, oh, ever). I was able to realize and accept that having fun can (and should!) be part of the writing process…and the floodgates of creativity spilled forth as an answering reward.  I didn’t necessarily change any resulting behavior, I just changed my perception of my obstacle; the behaviors just ended up being more enjoyable.

I’ve learned to brainstorm better, to choose writing environments to support my writing, and turn off my self-editor so that I can “get over myself” and finish the story.  I’m under no illusions: my current WIP may never see the light of publication, but the knowledge that I will finish this story will enable more productivity.  One success, one win, fuels more success, and ever increasing challenges.  And you know what?  Because my mindset is prepared, I’m ready to meet and accept these challenges.

Focus on Solutions

“You have to know who you are before you decide how to be.” Twitter user, @IZTAES

So, I reflected on the person I am in order to realize the Author I Want to Be, the Story I Want to Write, and basically, commit myself to be labeled under the genre of Young Adult Literature (yes, a teaser of next week’s blog post).  I needed to be able to LOVE what I’m writing, and be proud that my name is associated with That Story.  And, I know it may seem insignificant, but for me, mindset is SO important to enable change.  It’s the strategic step that I needed to make before I was able to make any significant progress anywhere, because I needed to know Who I Was, and Who I Wanted To Be, before I could even make goals, let alone action steps toward that goal.

I know this process is a little foundational, but I hope I’ve been able to help someone who is struggling with their limiting beliefs over their own writing (or fillintheblank) journey/goal.  I’m obviously methodical and analytical, and have to follow certain processes; that’s just how I roll.  Thankfully, I also embrace change pretty well, and can course-correct easily. 😉


My Road to Simplicity

A Short Epiphany, That is Explained By a Long Ramble…You Have Been Warned

So, I had an epiphany this past weekend.

I realized that I was stuck in my story, and that I haven’t really moved forward in it.  (No, that’s not the epiphany part of things.)  Because of this “block,” I was forced to analyze my story, and untangle why I was so stuck, and believe me, I really didn’t want to, because I knew the answer before I even wanted to acknowledge the problem.  I was stuck in my story because I didn’t have the amazing plot outline that I thought I did.  In fact, in the universe of plot outlines, mine would have been that barren asteroid that astronomers overlook as kinda boring and useless.  (They’d probably assign it a boring number, too.)

What I was resisting before my epiphany, I realize that I actually have to face and do: I needed to get back to the drawing board.

Back to the Drawing Board

"Well, back to the old drawing board".

What I mean when I say, “Drawing Board,” are those lovely things that other writers may have realized and completed long before they even started their story.  You know, those little things like Character Biographies, World/Culture Building, and all the other lovely background informational resources necessary to make one little street in The Story seem like a vast and habitable universe to The Reader.

I think I would be more frustrated with myself and my writing talents if I didn’t know deep down that I needed to do this, and that this was something that I have almost consciously ignored.  I knew that I needed to do this from the start.  I did this to myself.  I created this “writer’s block,” and so this whole situation is a lot easier for me to swallow.  (Not easy, just easier than what it could have been had this been an unintentional, unconscious act.)

I ignored this planning stage originally because, well, honestly, I simply didn’t realize the magnitude of usefulness that an information repository would be, and also in part because I didn’t sort out my goals beforehand.  Let me explain the second part first, because it deals with my mindset.

I have explained mindset before, and how important it is for me to have the proper mindset, and this scenario is a great example of that (Not that I like admitting how slow I am on the uptake sometimes.  I should probably create a category on here called “Face Palm Moments” celebrating my obstacles, and the overcoming thereof.  Always stress the “overcoming.”).  🙂

“Write…”

I love road trips.  Each year, I need a really good road trip to quiet that restless drive inside me that tells me to keep moving.  I have discovered in my road adventures that there are several ways to get to a particular destination, and that I have to plan my route depending on the random sites that I wanted to visit along my way to that destination.  Each stop had a purpose.  Each route was chosen for a specific reason.

Part of my epiphany over the weekend made me realize that if I approached road trips like I did my writing, I would never have gotten anywhere that I wanted to go, and I would never have seen all the cool things I’ve seen.  My writing before this point was the road trip equivalent of me just driving, with no thought to where I was going, and basically just logging miles per day, without any real return on the gas-mileage-investment.  No real plan.  How silly would that be, right?  (Remind me to tell you guys of an 18-hour road trip to Santa-Barbara-but-was-actually-to-nowhere that my parents took me on.  Wait, I basically just told you about it.)

At least I finally did realize what I was doing.  And, the root of all this aimless driving?  I was so trying to prove to myself that I was a writer, and felt the need to constantly validate my status by writing, that I didn’t allow myself the very practical need for background work.

“…With Purpose”

Just like I’ve given myself permission to plan in other areas of my life, I realize that I needed to give myself that same permission in terms of writing.  My mindset was that my goal was “Writing” and if that was all it was, then I’ve accomplished it, given that I have been writing everyday since I’ve first held a journal and called it “Mine.”

My goal is now clear to me (and my subconscious): I am writing a Novel.  At the end of all this work, I will have a finished story in novel form.  Writing is the process for me to get that finished product; it is not the goal.  I know this may seem little, but to my subconscious, this epiphany is huge: I honestly thought I was moving away from my goal (“Writing”) and was wasting time with the background stuff, rather than seeing the background work as integral for me to accomplish my true goal of creating a Novel.

To that end, I am now taking the time to create the detailed Biographies, History, and other lovely background tidbits that are worth the time investment upfront to guide me through the middle of my story in the future. (And, allowing myself to love this process! I’m such a nerd about this sort of thing!).

Fear of Commitment

The other reason why I ignored this process initially is really quick to explain, but I’m kinda cringing about it because the reason is so stupid.  Sigh, here goes.  Truthfully, I was a little nervous about hammering down a “fixed” history of my world, because I was afraid to commit to one thing, one event, one history. Phew, there, I said it!

I have so many random pages of “background histories” that are always evolving and shifting (and, some that are freakily exact biographies and descriptions about specific characters, even though those biographies were written months apart.  Seriously.).  It’s almost like I felt that if I “fixed” them, then I was committed to it, and that there was no changing, ever, and what would happen then??  (Funny, how I never had a fear of commitment when I was with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, but my characters on the other hand…)

But, I had to come to the conclusion, oh so slowly, that having a fixed fact helps to create conflict/movement/action that my characters need to deal with.  (insert “Duh” here).  I can go on about how obvious this concept is, and debate on why I was so slow to realize all of this, but I will quickly divert attention away from my lame-ness toward some fun resources for character biographies, which can be found at Holly Lisle’s blog here, and at Natalie Whipple’s blog here.

Have I Mentioned That My 2010 Theme is “Simplify.  Focus.”?

So, one last aspect of my “Simplify. Focus.” Theme of 2010 includes simplifying this blog and the reason why I use it.

I created this blog initially because I love books: I love reading them, and writing one would be a marvelous extension of that, and would bring the love round full circle.  (But, I could totally do all that with my Moleskine with minimal effort.)

I also like being able to connect with a writing community, and hopefully find friends here with whom to bond over Worthy Nerdy Pursuits.  But, honestly, I can do that with social media.

Well, why have I kept this up, rambling on about my mindset and thought process, and basically allowing myself to look like a fool as I fumble toward my goal of creating a Novel?

Accountability.

I don’t have much accountability on my side of the laptop to keep at my words and world building.  But here, in my Happy Place, I can write about what I’m doing, and just thinking that I have other people reading and knowing about my progress (or lack thereof) motivates me to get back to work.  I can pretend that other people can glean some kind of insight from these random snippets of my everyday; that someone somewhere will be entertained by my Face Palm moments, and hopefully, can get started on better footing than I did; that I can be of value to someone else, and inspire them to act, just as other bloggers over the years have inspired me.

With that said, this blog will not be a Writer’s Resource to All Things Writerly (but if any of you find a site like that, please share!).  I can’t promise to be helpful or insightful, because to me, that would imply an authority that would be laughable for me to claim.  I can’t promise that this blog will be time-worthy in any way.

But, I hope that as I play here, in my Happy Place, that you will pull up a chair, grab some coffee (I will allow for tea), and share in my love of books, reading, writing.

Welcome, by the way, and please excuse the mess… 😉